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Issue No. 209 20 February 2004  

Regions To Be Cheerful
Rule changes endorsed by this week’s NSW Labor Council Annual General Meeting reorganising the South Coast Labor Council into as a regional branch council should not be under-estimated.


Interview: Trading in Principle
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, a key figure in the Labor movement, discusses the big issues - from Mark Latham to Pavlov’s Dogs.

Unions: While We Were Away
While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Politics: Follow the Leader
Worker’s Online tool man, Phil Doyle, dives into the ALP’s Darling Harbour love-in and nearly drowns in treacle.

Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australia’s worst employer.

Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
British academic, Kevin Doogan, sets the record straight on casualisation and warns unionists about the dangers of scoring an own goal

History: Worker Control Harco Style
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys ask if it's worth rememberinng the 1971 Harco work-in.

Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
The 1998 maritime dispute threatened to tear many a family apart but Katherine Thomson's Harbour tells the tale of at least one that it brought back together - albeit reluctantly, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Trains Go Backwards

 Mum Can’t Bank on Westpac

 Andrews Up for Hanke Panky

 Riot Raises Safety Probe

 ABC of Solidarity

 "Shameful" Action Pays Dividends

 Bum Rap for Bump Caps

 Strikers Tie Down Gas Project

 Heat Rises at Uni

 TeleTech's Dead Heart

 Tired Drivers Fight Hypocrisy

 Seven Days on a Leaking Boat

 Families Back Safety Calls

 Howard Pushes Pay Cut

 Activist's Notebook


The Soapbox
Dog Whistlers, Spin Doctor and Us
John Menadue argues the "better angels" of the Australian character are having their wings ripped off by an ever-expanding group dedicating to keeping the public at arms length from our decision-makers.

Something Fishy In Laos
Phillip Hazelton fishes around in Vientiane, Laos, and looks at the impact of Bird Flu on those relying on feathered friends for survival.

Magic Realism
Phil Doyle discovers that literature and sport may have more in common than you would think

The Westie Wing
Trickle, flood or drought? Workers friend Ian West, MLC, is wet, wet, wet on the issue of bilateral Free Trade.

 On the Road
 A Casual Affair
 Latham Is A Bad Man
 Congrats Johnny
 Tom’s Bit
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Letters to the Editor

Latham Is A Bad Man

Mark Latham makes John Howard look vulnerable. I get excited by the feeling that maybe the lying reactionary bastard is gone.

One recent opinion poll showed the ALP at 55% on a two party preferred basis. And for the first time in years the ALP‚s first party preference is over 40%. The latest had it at over 46%.

So why is Latham looking so good?

After seven years of reaction people want a real alternative. Howard offers nothing to working people - nothing on health, nothing on education, nothing on job security. The only positive he offers is lies - lies on refugees, lies on Iraq, lies on how he has made things better.

The talent of Latham is that he has given focus to the anger people have with the Tories. The trouble is, Latham is a Tory too.

Mark Latham will continue John Howard‚s agenda. That legacy is to attack refugees, to attack health, to attack education. And to warmonger.

Opportunity for all, says Latham. Except, apparently, refugees. Other exceptions will pile up. Like single mothers. And the unemployed. And the ill.

Latham‚s strategy in this election year is to emphasise his caring side. But he is an economic rationalist. He has decreed that any new spending must be paid for with spending cuts. Labor‚s razor gang is enjoying using the axe.

Latham says he wants more spending on health and education. This is good.

But the so far unarticulated message is that with benefits go responsibilities. Latham makes much of mutuality and responsibility. This is the same idea as Howard‚s - mutual responsibility. Howard‚s approach spawned the work for the dole failure. Latham will develop similar rubbish when in power.

The flip side of Latham is that he will attack working people, under the guise of responsibility.

There are hints of Latham‚s rationalist side coming through. He talks of slackers and workers. Slackers - an undefined Latham term - will be the next excision from Australian society.

For all his promises about making things better, Latham cannot offer real change. Australia‚s integration into the world economy will not allow it. First, the necessity to attract and keep capital will produce increased taxes on labour and lower taxes on capital. This is the response of all OECD Governments to globalisation. Latham will be no different.

Second, the squeeze on profit rates over the last thirty years - with the main capitalist responses being to cut social services, lengthen the working day and make us work harder - means the economy has no social surplus to provide real reforms. All the money is going to capital accumulation. To siphon some off for workers‚ health and education would threaten Australia‚s „competitiveness‰ and ability to attract capital. Hence user pays in health and education. Latham will continue that trend.

A Latham Government will be one of reformism without reforms.

Latham thinks that globalisation in its present form - the rampant multinational, beholden only to profit - is unstoppable. Such a process creates winners and losers. Change is in Latham‚s view inevitable and the role of the state is to ameliorate the effects of that change. But not, argues Latham, to rescue the slackers.

The chance is that when in Government Latham will say that those who are disadvantaged - the single mums, the poor, the unemployed, the sick - are per se slackers. It is the logic of his worship of globalisation and the profit accumulation process. It is the logic too of John Howard.

So bad luck all us Latham slackers when we lose our jobs, have a baby, or want to go to the doctor.

Latham simply cannot worship at the altar of capitalist globalisation and at the same time promise workers the world. It is one or the other.

Latham talks of a third way. It is an attempt to sound progressive while screwing workers. It is disguised Thatcherism.

The argument is that the globalisation of the economy means the old labour and capital division is irrelevant and with it the left/right distinction. Bill Clinton is a third wayist. So to is Tony Blair. Mark Latham will make them look like amateurs.

To understand Latham‚s rise, we need to understand the ALP. The trade union movement created the ALP. That relationship is changing.

Lenin described Labor as a bourgeois workers‚ party. The trend over the last thirty years has been for it to become more bourgeois and less worker oriented.

The ALP is the political expression of the trade union bureaucracy. That bureaucracy is not part of the working class. It balances between labour and capital. It depends for its existence on the continuation of the wages system. It negotiates. It compromises. It bows before the rule of capital.

So too the ALP - it manages capitalism. It does not and cannot challenge it.

Latham may try to break the links between the Labor Party and the trade union bureaucracy. We could see him turn the ALP, a party of social democracy, into the Australian equivalent of the American Democrats - the second party of US capital.

With an election this year, Latham is quiet on this. His previous writings certainly indicate this could be one of his long term aims. After all, if globalisation renders irrelevant the old left/right distinction it certainly makes a social democratic party passé.

Latham makes much of his working class background. In fact his work experience is not working class - but it is typical of an ALP hack. How could a man whose working life has been as a servant of the NSW Right - Whitlam, the machine, Carr, Liverpool Council and Federal Parliament - have any conception of the way working people live?

Latham talks about climbing the rungs of opportunity. For most workers this is impossible. The essence of capitalism is that workers create profit for the bosses. Without workers there can be no capitalism. So we cannot climb out of the working class. It doesn‚t matter how hard we work, not everyone can be a billionaire press baron.

A very few workers do move into the ruling class. Alan Bond went from Perth painter to billionaire. Then to prisoner. Now to millionaire. Is that what Latham is on about?

One way of making life better for workers is to fight for better wages and conditions.

The level of class struggle today is very low, destroyed in part by the Accord between the Hawke and Keating Governments and the union leadership.

The acquiescence of Labor to the Tory agenda may change if the ALP wins Government. The sell outs of Hawke and Keating remain fresh in many workers‚ minds. Latham with his rationalist agenda could be the spark that generates a move to the left industrially and eventually politically. That spark could lead to the creation of a genuine left committed to the overthrow of the rule of capital and the democratic rule of labour.

But for the moment the task is clear for the left - throw Howard overboard, but prepare to fight Howard‚s son.

Leonie Bronstein


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